May 15, 2020

Environmental jobs to the fore in Budget 2020's COVID-19 recovery response

A $1.1 billion commitment will create and support 11,000 jobs that will protect and improve our natural environment for future generations.

In the Budget Policy Statement, released in December 2020, before COVID-19, the government signalled its commitment to grow our economy in a sustainable way, while also protecting and enhancing our natural environment. Although COVID-19 forced the Government to radically adjust the budget it is pleasing to see that a focus on the environment was not abandoned in favour of the economic recovery.

The environment has been put at the centre of the Government’s ambition to maintain existing jobs and create new jobs. The Government’s intention is that environment-related actions will make a meaningful contribution to the post-COVID-19 economic recovery. Through initiatives designed specifically in response to COVID-19 $1.1 billion investment will create 11,000 environment jobs focussed on the environment.

The largest proportion of the investment will see $433 million injected into regional environmental projects that will create 4,000 jobs over five years. The investment will contribute to improving the health of New Zealand's waterways and support economic recovery in partnership with local government and farmers. This will include restoring mini wetlands, stabilising river banks, removing sediment, and providing for fish passage. The programme is intended to deliver benefits to local businesses, accelerate regional economic recovery and advance national and regional environmental priorities.

One of the intentions of the package is to enable businesses considering redundancies or downscaling to redeploy their staff on environmentally focused activities. When those businesses are able to rehire again, workers can return to their previous roles. This is essential for ensuring a strong recovery as the programme will keep people active in the workforce while enabling the quick redistribution of labour when businesses require the staff as they recover. This programme will give employees job and income security and enable businesses to keep existing staff engaged and ready to return when the time comes. This will save businesses laying off staff in the short term only to have to advertise and re-train at additional cost as they recover.

New jobs will also be created as part of a Pest Eradication and Management package which is receiving $315 million. The package will build on efforts of iwi, the Department of Conservation and the community to control pests and weeds, restore wetlands and return native bush to health.

The package is made up of four initiatives:

  • $148 million for the Department of Conservation to ramp up pest control and eradication, including advancing Predator Free New Zealand and working with iwi to prevent the collapse of North Island forests
  • $27 million for the Ministry for Primary Industries to get populations of wallabies in the Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Canterbury and Otago under control
  • $40 million for Land Information New Zealand to undertake pest and weed control in rivers on Crown land
  • $100 million for jobs to help control wilding pines.

The Government expects that the programme will provide direct employment for up to 600 people annually while supporting many more jobs that are indirectly created or induced by the activities.

Two other programmes that will support environmentally focussed jobs are a Jobs for Nature Fund of $200 million, and $154 million for new jobs enhancing biodiversity on public and private land.

The Jobs for Nature Fund will create jobs by boosting predator control efforts, restoring wetlands, regenerate planting and improving tracks, huts and other recreational and visitor assets on public conservation land.

The funding will enable iwi, businesses, and councils working with government agencies like the Department of Conservation (DOC) to employ thousands of people across New Zealand to better look after our natural landscapes, native bush, birds, waterways and coast. DOC then will work with councils, iwi and local businesses such as tourism operators to provide these nature based jobs.

The initiative to enhance biodiversity on public and private land will create more than 1,800 new jobs. Government investment will create the opportunity for people who have lost their jobs in other sectors to move into this habitat work, and the four-year investment programme will give businesses the certainty and confidence to invest. The jobs will be primarily in the regions through agencies like QEII and Landcare Trust, regional councils and landowner groups.

Overall, these initiatives will keep New Zealanders working while ensuring that the benefits of unprecedented investment to get us through the COVID-19 recovery will carry on for future generations.